Personal relationships. Intimacy. Sex and sexuality. What first comes to mind when you hear those phrases? It might be privacy and reproductive “rights.” Or it might be frustrated singleness or broken marriage. It might be concern over how culture and the church often clash over what’s on or not on the sin list. But God’s plan of redemption is what I believe He thinks of in those areas.
And by “plan of redemption” I’m talking about a whole lot more than the forgiveness we all need for certain behaviors or attitudes, as much as we do need that. I’m talking about the way God created each of us with the need, desire, and capacity for intimacy, and how working with those deep places in our souls is exactly what God’s plan of redemption is all about.
These are hot topics in today’s culture both inside and outside the church. Dating, or not. The “new normal” of a couple having sex and living together without being married. Contentious silos of debate around LGBTQ+ issues. The fall of Roe v. Wade in the U.S. Sex trafficking. Pornography. Easy and frequent divorce. Domestic violence and abuse. Single parenting. Sex education of children. Your blood probably boils just thinking about one or more of these. What these issues have in common is that they all relate to relationships, intimacy, and sexuality.
These things are a big deal.
And that’s a good thing.
Today’s Cultural Window
There are at least two ways in which these issues being “front and center” in contemporary consciousness is a good thing when it comes to God’s plan of redemption.
First, these issues highlight how only addressing behaviors doesn’t work. Behaviors matter! Behaviors have consequences. But if putting a certain behavior on the sin list were enough to halt its impact, why do you still struggle with watching porn, sleeping with your boyfriend/girlfriend, or feeling either righteous or ashamed about your sex life?
As a culture and as a church we have generally done a woefully poor job at addressing the matters of the heart that underlie these behaviors. We have not helped people address the honest God-given need for intimacy they have within themselves. Legislating “goodness” or “morality” doesn’t work; that’s abundantly proven by how large these issues loom today.
And second, if we’re honest these cultural realities have brought us to the end of ourselves. The problems are getting bigger, not smaller. Creating better laws, resources for those harmed, and support groups for those wanting help are all important. Doing that kind of work is good work. But it’s not enough.
It’s not enough because human effort cannot change the human heart. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. And by leaving Him out of the process we just end up with endless variations of Lord of the Flies.
Put those two things together and it’s a setup for God’s plan of redemption.
Intimacy and God’s Plan of Redemption
You can’t demand intimacy. Oh, you might try. But that ends up in either abuse or superficial pretending.
You can’t command love. Again, you might try. You might get obedience or niceness as a result, but you won’t get love.
God is love. You are created in His image, with the need, desire, and capacity for intimacy. You can’t give or receive love or intimacy “on demand.” Your heart needs to be won.
Hence the love stories we love so much. And witness the Biblical narratives, both many of the individual stories and the book as a whole. God is after your heart. He’s after your love. Your worship. He’s inviting you to intimacy with Himself. (See 1 John 1:1-3)
And worship? We pass over that idea too quickly in this context. One way to illustrate this is to reference what was said in the old English wedding vows; “With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship. . .” Worship and intimacy are very much related.
And if we are to worship God as He desires, we will have to learn to let the walls down in our own souls and allow Him to come near to us with true intimacy.
We are changed when that happens. It’s the only way the corrupted DNA of our very nature can be restored. When Jesus showed up on earth things changed. Dead things came to life, lame things began to move, and broken things were restored. And when He shows up in your heart–truly shows up in a profound intimate way–the dead, lame, and broken things in your heart undergo transformation too.
That’s how you become like Him, the way you were originally created to be.
Entering God’s Redemption Story
This is why an intellectual assent to a list of “truths” doesn’t accomplish very much of the redemption God has available. So, today’s cultural obsession with relationships, intimacy, and sex can be a perfect setup for you and others to experience what God is really after if you give Him a chance.
If you’ve experienced intimacy gone wrong and are mired in a mess, or if you’ve become disillusioned with the emptiness of trying to “be good,” this is good news! Your need for more is exactly what gives God opportunity to do His best work. Go ahead and fall apart. Let your walls come down. Be with Him. Let Him transform you from the inside out.
And if you care about others who are struggling with intimacy gone wrong, this should provide some clues about helpful ways to engage with them. Debating about what’s on or not on the sin list won’t help. Watch for opportunities to engage over matters of the heart.
My biggest hope is that perhaps today’s cultural obsession over relationships, intimacy, and sex will allow the body of Christ to speak to what God has most desired all along.
Your Turn: Do you agree that the need for intimacy opens the door to what God desires most to experience with us? Why or why not? What does this say about God’s plan of redemption? Leave a comment below.
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- Today’s cultural obsession with relationships, intimacy, and sex can be the perfect setup for God’s plan of redemption. After all, what God desires most is intimacy with you. That’s how you become changed. Tweet that.
Can’t Talk to Anyone?
Many people feel they have no one they can talk with about their biggest challenges. Loneliness is painful. And dangerous – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But doing something about it is hard!
I’d love to send you some ideas about some practical small things you can do when you feel you can’t talk to anyone, things that will empower you and just might result in some real connection.